Sensory processing disorder (SPD) may be a condition that affects how your brain processes sensory information (stimuli). Sensory information includes things you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. SPD can affect all of your senses, or simply one. SPD usually means you’re overly sensitive to stimuli that other people are not. But the disorder can cause the other effect, too. In these cases, it takes more stimuli to impact you.
Children are more likely than adults to have SPD. But adults can have symptoms, too. In adults, it’s likely these symptoms have existed since childhood. However, the adults have developed ways to affect SPD that permit them hide the disorder from others.
There is some debate among doctors about whether SPD may be a separate disorder. Some doctors argue it isn’t. Some say it’s a diagnosis for things that would be explained as common behavior for youngsters . Others say some children are just highly sensitive. Some doctors say that SPD is a symptom of other disorders — such as autism spectrum disorder, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, etc. — and not a disorder itself. Other doctors believe your child may suffer from SPD without having another disorder. Some say it’s clear that some children have trouble handling regular sensory information (stimuli). For now, SPD isn’t recognized as a politician diagnosis .
Symptoms of sensory processing disorder
SPD can affect one sense or multiple senses. Children who have SPD may overreact to sounds, clothing, and food textures. Or they may underreact to sensory input. This causes them to crave more intense thrill-seeking stimuli. Some examples include jumping off tall things or swinging too high on the playground. Also, children with SPD aren't always only one or the opposite . They can be a mix of oversensitive and under-sensitive.
Children may be oversensitive if they:
Ø Think clothing feels too scratchy or itchy.
Ø Think lights seem too bright.
Ø Think sounds seem too loud.
Ø Think soft touches feel too hard.
Ø Experience food textures make them gag.
Ø Have poor balance or seem clumsy.
Ø Are afraid to play on the swings.
Ø React poorly to sudden movements, touches, loud noises, or bright lights.
Ø Have behavior problems.
Sometimes these symptoms are linked to poor motor skills as well. Your child may have trouble holding a pencil or scissors. He or she may have trouble climbing stairs or have low muscle tone. He or she also may have language delays.
In an older children, these symptoms may cause low self-confidence. They may lead to social isolation and even depression.
Children may be under-sensitive (sensory-seeking) if they:
Ø Can’t sit still
Ø Seek thrills (loves jumping, heights, and spinning).
Ø Can spin without getting dizzy.
Ø Don’t pick up on social cues.
Ø Don’t recognize personal space.
Ø Chew on things (including their hands and clothing).
Ø Seek visual stimulation (like electronics).
Ø Have problems sleeping.
Ø Don’t recognize when their face is dirty or nose is running.
What causes sensory processing disorder?
Doctors don’t know what causes SPD. They’re exploring a genetic link, which means it could run in families. Some doctors believe there might be a link between autism and SPD. This could mean that adults who have autism could be more likely to have children who have SPD. But it’s important to note that most people who have SPD don’t have autism.
How is sensory processing disorder diagnosed?
Parents may recognize their child’s behavior is not typical. But most parents may not know why. Don’t be afraid to discuss your child’s behavior with your doctor. He or she may refer you to an occupational therapist. These professionals can assess your child for SPD. He or she will likely watch your child interact in certain situations. The therapist will ask your child questions. All of these things will help make a diagnosis.
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